How to Check Coolant Level
If you ever find yourself past due for a coolant change there is a good chance that your cooling system has corroded. If this is the case you should take your car for a professional coolant flush, especially if you’ve mixed different types of radiator coolant. Usually you can tell your coolant is bad before even bringing it in for a flush by extracting some of the existing coolant with a baster and examining it. If there is evidence of corrosion or gunk build up, you are in need of a full-service flushing. Providing due diligence by performing routine maintenance, we always suggest to check coolant level, you can essentially save yourself money by negating the need for a full-service flush. The following is a guide of best practices to ensure you’ll never be spending unnecessary money due to neglect of your vehicle’s systems.
The first steps for dealing with your vehicle’s coolant is simply to buy the type of coolant listed in your owner’s manual. As obvious and redundant as this sounds, many individuals purchase the incorrect type of coolant and are forced to pay for a full-service flush. When you are at the local parts shop to purchase the correct coolant, you will also need to purchase a drain cock. The drain cock is a part used to extract liquid from the lowest part of the tank, as any remaining coolant left behind will have a chance to corrupt the new coolant poured into the tank. If your manual calls for an “extended life” coolant that isn’t available at the auto parts, you can always buy it direct from the dealer. Regardless of where you purchase the coolant from don’t ever purchase a “Universal” coolant fluid. Using the wrong coolant can cause premature /component failure and void your warranty. The proper car care will always make the differences.
How to Change Coolant
The next step in the process will most certainly become the part where most will disassociate themselves from the repair, but for those inclined enough to proceed you will need to go underneath the car. In perpetration to drain the car you will need to rise, and safely support, the front end of your vehicle with a car jack, and then prop your vehicle on jack stands to ensure stability. At this point you will place a large drain pan (a large bowl will work in place of a drain pan) under the radiator cap. Some radiators may not have a cap, in this case you would just find and remove the pressure cap typically located next to the coolant tank. Then proceed to open the draincock and drain the radiator.
Once all the fluid is drained from the coolant tank and the draincock is out, loosen the lower radiator hose clamp and disconnect the hose from the engine to drain the rest of the coolant. You may need to remove clamps during the process, in this case slip-joint pliers are the best tool to remove clamps, especially spring-loaded clamps. This will then empty out the rest of the coolant and provide you the ability to add new coolant. Lastly, reconnect and clamp the radiator hose and reinstall/replace the draincock after draining.
Now we are onto filling the coolant tank. When performing this procedure leave the car raised while you refill the radiator to reduce the possibility of air pockets forming in the engine. Now that your coolant is drained, make sure to follow the coolant manufacturer’s directions for diluting concentrated coolant. Mix the coolant and water thoroughly in a clean bucket in order to prevent mineral deposits on internal engine and radiator surfaces. When mixing the coolant with water always use distilled water—never tap water, as it may cause mineralization to the coolant. Slowly fill the radiator or coolant tank with fresh coolant until the coolant is one-inch below the neck of the radiator, or a few inches below the full mark on the coolant tank.
Start the engine and let it run in idle, after the engine warms you’ll see the coolant level quickly drop in the radiator/coolant tank. That means the thermostat has opened and it’s time to add more coolant to bring the level to the top of the radiator, or to the “HOT” mark on the coolant tank. Check your owner’s manual or service manual to see if your car requires a special air bleeding procedure. The last steps in the entirety of this process is to check for any leaks, shut off the engine, install the cap, lower the car and go for a drive!